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101 Things To Do: Goodhue County History Center

One of the goals of the Goodhue County Historical Society is to portray life in the area in an earlier time. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
The grounds of the Goodhue County Historical Society building offer an excellent view of downtown Red Wing and Barn Bluff on October 11, 2018. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
In 2019, the Goodhue County Historical Society will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a special event each month. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Details from an old rural school classroom give today's students a view of what life was like when wooden desks, pull-down maps, and chalkboards filled classrooms. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in our new series, 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at

In 1869, a group of Goodhue County settlers had a discussion about preserving the history of the area. They started collecting artifacts, found a building, and formed the Goodhue County Historical Society.

That initiative caused them to become the first county historical society in Minnesota, and means that the arrival of 2019 marks the sesquicentennial year for the organization.

"That is a huge thing that we are 150 years old," said Robin Wipperling, executive director. "During 2019, we are going to be focusing on this every month. We will have programs, events, and we are reaching out countywide because the society is countywide, not just Red Wing."

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Permanent exhibits at the Goodhue County History Center include a replica of an early schoolroom, complete with textbooks, chalkboard, and pull-down maps. Another exhibit is on water and its role in the history of the area, as well as an exhibit on the Sea Wing disaster on Lake Pepin.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum features traveling exhibits that change monthly. They also sponsor history breaks which are presentations during lunch hour so people can stop by, eat their lunch, and learn about a topic.

Wipperling said she hopes visitors leave with an "appreciation for the rich history that this area has and how people have worked for years to preserve it. Everybody walks away with something different."

She said the museum, which moved into its current building in 1992, has many visitors who grew up in the area or had grandparents who did, and they want to read about the history.

"A lot of people use our resource library to research their ancestors," she said, "and there are people who aren't from a rural area, and they are fascinated to see how they lived."

With all the permanent exhibits, the traveling exhibits for the sesquicentennial year, and the speakers for the history breaks, Wipperling recommends that visitors check the website frequently to see what new exhibits and events are scheduled. The society also has a quarterly newsletter.

"You could spend hours here looking and reading," Wipperling said. "You could get lost. If you can break away from today's world and go back in time, you might have a greater appreciation for what we have today."

If you go...

What: Goodhue County History Center

Where: 1166 Oak St., Red Wing, Minn.

Phone: 651-388-6024



When: Tuesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday and Monday closed

Admission: Adults $5; children 13-18 $2; children under 13 free

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872